Chris is a veteran of the Gulf War who lives in a converted bus in southern Oregon with her assistance dog, Merlin. She got Merlin from a non-profit organization where he was specially trained to retrieve her inhalers when she is suffering from a debilitating asthma attack. Many Gulf War veterans attribute their post-service asthma to the hundreds of oil well fires that blackened the skies of Kuwait in the early 1990s. Chris also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Merlin is her only close companion.
Last year, Merlin developed Aspergillus, a fungal infection in his nose and sinuses. Merlin’s veterinarian treated him by flushing his sinuses with an anti-fungal but the infection proved stubborn and repeat treatments were needed. Then Chris went in for surgery and developed a serious bone infection that kept her in the hospital longer than planned. Worried about her dog and with no one to turn to, she called a former neighbor, Kim Haines, and asked her to check on Merlin.